01 December 2005

What this country needs.....

.....is more game shows!

And I don't mean Survivor or the various other reality/games which some have chosen to lump into (read: tarnish) one of the most entertaining TV genres ever: the game show. Not all shows are games, and not all games are game shows.

Okay, you may be saying, "Gleck, there's PRICE IS RIGHT, WHEEL OF FORTUNE and JEOPARDY ... shouldn't that be enough??" My answer, simply enough, is NO, IT'S NOT ENOUGH!! What's more, the three we have now, I feel, might be ruining the game show genre for many years to come!

Wheel of Fortune: I'll go ahead and get it out of the way: CHUCK WOOLERY AND SUSAN STAFFORD WERE BY FAR THE BETTER HOSTS ! ! ! It was a middle-tier game show on NBC from its debut in 1975, and actually flirted with cancellation in the early '80s (after Pat Sajak took over at the end of 1981). Then came the idea of syndicating the show. Paydirt!

I've long since been tired of "Wheel" -- it now exists solely for the entertainment and edification of, quoting from The Late Shift, "women with blue hair who live in trailer parks and go to bed early." It was a very entertaining show for the first, ohhhhhh, 7-10 years. Today they have to come up with these weeeeeird hangman puzzles just to keep it fresh.

And Vanna White, despite being skinnier than Ally McBeal on her fattest day, might've been the looker in 1985, but in 2005 she looks like a botox'ed up poster girl for The Future Carol Channings of America.

Jeopardy!: It's been dumbed down to the point that a lot of the time, I can answer most ever quest--er, I mean, question every answer on the board. Have I gotten that smarter in my advancing age? I don't think so.

I remember how challenging the game was once upon a time ... back when Alex Trebek had a mustache and traces of that old curly-Q hairdo he wore in the '70s, when he read all the answers on the board without the "help" of that so-called "Clue Crew."

And dropping the five-time champion rule was a huge mistake, especially without allowing the second and third place players to keep their winnings (as, it must be noted, was the case with the original 1964-1975 NBC version of Jeopardy, hosted by Art Fleming (RIP), a man who could run rings around Trebek!)

It saddened me when the show decided to throw out the original FINAL JEOPARDY "think" music -- the one single element carried over from the NBC Fleming version (yes, that "think" music dates back to 1964). But noooooo, they had to monkey with history. Couldn't they have learned something from The Price is Right??!!

Jeopardy pretty much lost me during the Ken Jennings reign of terror. I'm sorry, but when I know who's gonna be the champion, and by 10x, 20x or even as many as 30 times what the second-place contestant cops, I'm not that eager to watch the show, ya know? And what was with that cutesy handwriting each day? I didn't root for Ken; I wanted to haul right off and cold-cock that smug face faster than you could say "I wager all $2,399,039 of my winnings for that DAILY DOUBLE on 'Famous Mormon Winners on JEOPARDY', Alex."

Either that, or find one of my old shoes and throw it at the TV faster than you could say "Elvis Presley."

It was obvious, if not clear, to this writer that the producers deliberately 'stacked the deck', directing denser-than-usual contestants away from the Wheel of Fortune queue and over to the Jeopardy auditions. How else, with dumbed-down 'answers', could Ken Jennings scoot that far ahead of those other folks? I simply do not buy into the notion that for 70+ programs, few were able to get their score at least halfway to Ken's going into FINAL JEOPARDY, which meant a guaranteed win, regardless.

I know game shows are highly regulated, a practice dating back to the scandals of the 1950s. Still, there are ways. And as 'dumbed down' as America has gotten, perhaps the producers of J decided the ignorant masses would better respond to one 'big' winner. They couldn't rig the game, but opted for the next best thing.

That's not rain in your area, my friend; those are Art Fleming's tears.

The Price is Right: The show's concept is fresh, and has never gotten stale, despite this version being on the air continously since September 4, 1972. The secret, I sincerely believe, is in all the little "pricing games" played, six per show. Each day completely different games are played within the parameters of the basic show structure. Half the fun in tuning in is wondering which games will show up. Will they do Plinko again? Or will it be that quick (and borrrrinnnnng) "One Right Price"?

TPIR has maintained this longevity with what could be called DATED theme music: the identical recording created by Score Productions for the show's return in 1972 (an original version, hosted by Bill Cullen, aired in the '50s and early '60s). I take great comfort in hearing that theme music; it truly is one of the few - if not only - unchanged elements of television from my childhood.

The house is fine, but the problem with PRICE lays in the host: Bob "Wear a Fur Coat Just To Spite Him" Barker. His years with the show has caused it to become less important than the person hosting it. It's like M*A*S*H in its last years, basically a platform for the leading star's political views.

Things are good for TPIR now. Key word: NOW. Barker is getting on up there in years. He's beginning to look a bit frail, to tell you the truth (wasn't that another game show?) Barker's ego evidently has precluded any grooming of an heir apparent for the show. Instead of valuing the franchise, he wants that show to go down with him.

When Barker kicks the plinko chip, what's gonna happen to PRICE? I get the feeling that said dumbed-down America won't accept another host, and the whole shooting match will spiral downward and be delivered a pink slip by CBS. Resulting in a thought I don't like to ponder: for the first time in daytime TV history, a schedule without a single game show on it.

* * * * * * * *

There are plenty of other game show ideas - OLD concepts - whiich, if executed right, could take this country by storm. And perhaps even knock a body blow to Sajak and Trebek. I'll address those on Sunday.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "You Putz! You passed on the car showcase and now you're stuck with bidding on Showcase #2, with nothing but furniture!" Gleck

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